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January 2005

2004 Investment Performance

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According to my Microsoft Money 2004 report, my investments did well in 2004.

My 401(k) produced a 23.9% return over the year, not accounting for my employer match, just the change in fund values. My Roth IRA delivered a 17.2% return. I have a regular investment account that provided me with a less impressive 6.8% return.

The weighted average annual return of all my investments was 18.7%.

January has been a down month in the stock market. Many people are saying that a poorly performing January signals a poorly performing year ahead. We’ll have to see what happens.

Super Saver

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This is what I should be thinking about for 2005. The article paints a picture of Rick Kuhlman who has found some ways to save that I think could apply to me.

He replaced all the lightbulbs in his house with energy-efficient ones. At first I thought that it would be better to wait for the current bulbs to die, but saving $20 a month in electricity definitely outweighs just waiting for the old, non-efficient bulbs to die.

Rick switched from cable to satellite. For cable television, I pay about $80 a month, or $960 a year. That’s with a special promotion. I should really re-evaluate my needs. Yes, I like having HBO On Demand so I can watch certain programs with guests. I like having Bravo as I enjoy Celebrity Poker Showdown and The West Wing.

Thinking about it, it would actually be cheaper to buy those shows on DVD when they come out rather than having cable. Perhaps I can just visit a friend who would tape them on TiVo.

My desktop computer has TiVo functionality, so even with basic cable I could still view and record the new episodes of The West Wing.

The Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are now twin queens of their media empire. Not bad for only 18. Apparently their attorney, who helped them build the Olsen Twin Empire and has been CEO of their company, agreed to let the twins take over their business if compensated, and in his own words he was, handsomely.

Joining her sister in a statement, Mary-Kate Olsen said: “We are very thankful that we are able to enjoy our college experience, run a business, and live our lives.”

Business Blogging Awards

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If you enjoy reading Consumerism Commentary (that’s this website, the blog you are now reading), please take a moment to vote for us at the Business Blogging Awards. We’ve been nominated under the “personal finance blog” category. I am pretty sure that we’re not going to win, but it would be nice not to be embarassed.

Thanks to all the readers who come by every day and especially those who comment and add to the discussions.

Tax Time

by Luke Landes

I’ve started working on my tax forms with TurboTax Online through taxfreedom.com, a site that offers free federal and reduced-price state filing. I have almost all the information I need, so I went through to see where I was heading. Thankfully, I took classes last year towards my MBA. If I hadn’t, I would have ... Continue reading this article…

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ING Direct Not Keeping Pace

by Luke Landes

Sorry for not writing much lately, I’ve been a little under the weather. The savings interest rate at ING Direct has not moved up since December 28. Since then, others like Emigrant Direct (at 3 percent APY) and VirtualBank at 2.6 percent APY (for the first $10,000). I’m sure ING Direct has noticed the competition and will ... Continue reading this article…

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My 401(k) Contributions

by Luke Landes

Currently, I am contributing 12 percent of my gross salary to my 401(k). In thinking about my finances for the upcoming year, I’d like to reduce that to 6 percent or 8 percent. There is a strain on the amount of available cash at any moment. Unfortuantely, I am a designated person in my company, according to government ... Continue reading this article…

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Delayed Deposits Cost Account Holders

by Luke Landes

Jonathan Burton of CBS MarketWatch has pointed out that millions of dollars are lost by employees when their employer holds onto 401(k) funds after they are deducted from the paycheck. It works like this. On Friday, January 1, you receive your paycheck. 12 percent of your paycheck has been deducted before taxes and put aside. According ... Continue reading this article…

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Nine Millionaires

by Luke Landes

I believe that this article from MSN Money is better than most of CNN Money‘s “Millionaire in the Making” stories. This article profiles nine individuals and the stories behind their first million dollars. Only one of them has anything to do with real estate; they are mostly stories of taking a chance with an idea ... Continue reading this article…

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401(k) Exploitation

by Luke Landes

Robert Powell has written an article entitled, Seven ways to fully exploit your 401(k), and it appears on CBS MarketWatch. In it, he does what the title suggests and gives the reader seven important things to remember when planning for retirement. Here they are, with infamous Flexo commentary. Enroll now. I have a friend of ... Continue reading this article…

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Join the Army, Get Rich

by Luke Landes

Finally CNN Money has listened to my ranting and posted a Millionaire in the Making article about a single person rather than a couple. I don’t have any commentary other than that.

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Fear of a Housing Bubble?

by Luke Landes

I always like articles about the housing bubble. Some people believe a crash is inevitable and some people think the economy can stave it off. This article and similar ones prove that no one really knows anything and people are just guessing. Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s sure they’re correctly predicting the future, but ... Continue reading this article…

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Gmail Invitations

by Luke Landes

I have eight invitations for Gmail to give away. Gmail is the free email service offered by Google that sorts your conversations, searches through a large amount of email quickly, serves you unobtrusive related ads, and supplies POP service so you can also access the email through your favorite program such as Thunderbird. Leave a ... Continue reading this article…

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Living Frugally

by Luke Landes

CNN Money rounded up three experts in frugal living and collected some tips for cutting back basic living expenses. Some sites to peruse: Frugal Fun, Servas for traveling, About.com’s frugal living section, and the Cheapskate Monthly. I should start doing some things to cut away at my expenses this year.

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The Millionaire Myth

by Luke Landes

MM from PFBlog posted a link to an article by Dustin Woodward, a Webmaster/Researcher for an investment advisory firm, called What it Takes to Be a Millionaire. (That’s the name of the article, not the firm.) It turns out the process is simple — start saving early and rely on compounding interest. There is a ... Continue reading this article…

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Investing While In Debt

by Luke Landes

An article by Dayana Yochim at The Motley Fool gives the reader license to invest in the market while in debt — as long as the debt is good debt and not bad. Even if the debt is bad debt (credit cards), she suggests investing what you can while keeping to a plan to get ... Continue reading this article…

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Great Interview Advice

by Luke Landes

This article by Sarah Max (yet another at CNN Money) is probably the best I’ve read on the topic of techniques for the job interviewee. First of all, after reading the article, I now know that just about everything I do in an interview is wrong. Human resources is absolutely the last place you want ... Continue reading this article…

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A Better ING Direct Deal

by Luke Landes

I didn’t realize this deal at ING Direct was still active. I was looking through my archives and I found my post from September 9, 2003. In that post, I included a link to a better ING Direct offer than the one you find all over the internet (especially blogs) where the originator gets $10 ... Continue reading this article…

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Having a Six-Figure Salary Doesn’t Hurt (But I Wouldn’t Know)

by Luke Landes

In this article from CNN Money, Marc and Elesya cite MONEY Magazine (CNN Money’s offline counterpart) with helping them determine their strategies for building their net worth. You know, it would be great to see some stories about poor schlubs like me just trying to get by in a mediocre-paying job renting an apartment by ... Continue reading this article…

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Monthly Update – December 2004

by Luke Landes

Happy New Year! My financial resolution is to cut my spending for 2005. First of all, I’m switching from Microsoft Money 2003 to Quicken 2005 Premier Home & Business. I’ll run both programs simultaneously for a month or so, and then get rid of Money. All of my historical transactions are still in Money so ... Continue reading this article…

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